Aetna bid pushes CVS deeper into consumers’ lives

Q&A: The $69 billion acquisition may hinge on the Trump administration’s approach to antitrust enforcement.

A drugstore chain that used to hawk cigarettes behind the front counter now wants to offer nutrition advice and work with your doctor to keep you healthy.

CVS Health says it wants to use its roughly $69 billion acquisition of the insurer Aetna to dive deeper into managing customer health, with its nearly 10,000 stores becoming “front doors” for care. The companies plan to expand the health services offered through CVS locations and get more involved in helping patients stay on their medicines or manage their chronic conditions.

The deal announced Sunday will pair the second-largest U.S. drugstore chain with the third-largest health insurer. Here’s how it will likely play out.

Q: How will stores change?

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A: The deal pushes CVS further down a path it started years ago when it began adding clinics to its stores and later quit selling tobacco. Over time, CVS plans to bulk up the health-care services it offers through its stores and the space it devotes to them.

The company already has started testing vision and hearing-aid centers at 15 and 32 locations, respectively. It also does blood draws and monitors chronic conditions like high blood pressure at certain stores.

The company might add to the 1,100 clinics it operates, expand into selling more medical equipment or offer nutritionists to counsel customers.

CVS leaders think its vast footprint — nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives within 3 miles of a CVS pharmacy — gives it an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with customers.

Q: Are they trying to replace my family doctor?

A: CVS wants to complement doctor care, CEO Larry Merlo said Monday during a conference call to discuss the deal.

For example, Merlo said people with diabetes typically see their doctor several times a year but may have trouble sticking with a treatment plan. The company said it can help patients stay on a plan, using its network of pharmacists, clinics and other future services.

“We’re in the community, we’re seeing those patients. We’re becoming part of their daily lives and routines,” he said.

Q: Will this make my prescription drugs cheaper?

A: Not in the near term, according to Edward Jones analyst John Boylan.

The deal doesn’t change how drugs are…

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